The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a lot of changes in the way people with multiple sclerosis (MS) handle their health care. One big shift involved the use of telehealth — the practice of holding a medical visit online rather than meeting with a doctor face to face.
In January 2020, fewer than 1 percent of primary care visits among Medicare beneficiaries took place virtually — but just three months later, almost half of Medicare visits occurred outside of the face-to-face setting. This growth was driven by the need for people to socially distance for pandemic safety, and it was made easier by policy changes that allowed health care providers to collect reimbursement for telehealth visits as they would for in-person visits.
Although many people are describing telehealth as the new normal when it comes to health care, not all individuals with MS prefer it over in-person visits. Members of MyMSTeam have discussed this at length. One MyMSTeam member noted, “Telehealth has its limitations.” Another member said, “I can’t get telehealth visits to work.”
During a recent live poll with MS neurologist Dr. Aaron Boster, members of MyMSTeam overwhelmingly responded that they preferred in-person visits with their neurologists over telehealth.
Dr. Boster said he’s currently conducting between 50 percent and 75 percent of his visits via telehealth. “I live in sunny Columbus, Ohio, where there’s a very serious COVID pandemic and most of my patients are immunosuppressed,” he said. “If we can keep them at home, that's appropriate because that's safe.”
Dr. Boster provided several tips that can help people with MS maximize their telehealth visits, which appear in the infographic above. He also stressed that telehealth could be here to stay, even after the pandemic passes.
“I look forward to a future without COVID, but I look forward to a future without COVID with telemedicine, because it’s my opinion that if I can see you in the office twice a year, I can take care of everything else on telehealth,” he said.